Exploring the Classic Albums of Sheffield
Classic Sheffield albums. Yes I know Pulp, Human League and Heaven 17 – but over the years there have been some albums that you might have missed from a few Sheffield bands you might not be so familiar with. I’ve had a rummage around my album collection and found a few things you might have overlooked. When you’re done, get yourself up to Record Collector and pick up something up from the ‘local bands’ section.
I Monster: Neveroddoreven
Dean and Jarrod have been making music under the I Monster banner for a good few years, and this album contains their ‘hits’, Hey Mrs, Daydream in Blue and the Blue Wrath instrumental featured on the soundtrack of Shaun of the Dead. The album has had various releases, but even those familiar with any of the more well known tracks might fail to realise this psychedelic pop classic is music from Sheffield.
In The Nursery: The Passion of Joan of Arc
Not easy to pick a best album from ITN, but I’ve gone for one of their Optical Music film soundtrack albums. I find this their most haunting and atmospheric album, which was composed to accompany a classic German film of the silent cinema – and which they once performed live in Sheffield Cathedral. They have a parallel career in the European emo/goth scene, where they are a festival headlining act. In Brazil luggage handlers run over for autographs from twins Klive and Nigel. In Sheffield they go largely unnoticed.
Monkey Swallows the Universe: The Bright Carving
Nat Johnson has continued to be a strong presence on the Sheffield music scene since this debut album. I know she’ll not see this as anything more than just the springboard for the music that followed, but it is a truly lovely album, and songs such as Sheffield Shanty and Jimmy Down the Well should be heard by everyone. In this video Nat plays Sheffield Shanty on a boat!
Stoney: The Scene and the Unseen
I played this album to death when it came out in 2006, and it still sounds fresh today. Quite what happened to all the potential that spilled out in waves from this album is a mystery. He’s still active, and promises of something new are regularly posted online. Sheffield’s very own Beck, and no less enigmatic. He’s disabled the ‘embed’ function on his Youtube videos, so you’ll just have to hunt them down yourself. There’s even some from the last time he was seen in Sheffield (as far as I know) when he supported Athlete at the O2 Academy in 2010.
65daysofstatic: The Fall of Math
Their 2004 debut was recorded at Alan Smyth’s 2Fly studio, and although they have matured and moved on, it has a special resonance for me as it was where their campaign for world recognition began. The album is full of dense, complex, post-rock instrumentals that somehow have so much to say. They now look set to finally become famous outside of Sheffield after their successful installation at this year’s Tramlines festival. This Youtube video is a fan creation, but goes to show how seriously people take their music, and is an excellent visualisation of the title track
Another ‘new soundtrack’ album, this time for John Carpenter’s Dark Star. It stands alone though, as a great slice of modern dubstep/ambient music, with the added element of sampled dialogue from this classic SF film. Animat are Mark Daly and Michael Harding, and they are involved with performing, producing and DJ-ing all over our fair city. Hunt them and this album down and you will see how Sheffield reputation for innovative electronic music continues to this day.
Comsat Angels: Fiction
Mark Kermode said the Comsats were the band that Joy Division should have been, and he’s one of many who cite them as one of the seminal bands of the Eighties. Fans argue endlessly about which is their best work, but Fiction must be up there with their best. The tragedy is, hardly anyone bought it. A few brief re-union gigs have served to remind us what we have always known: Sheffield music always was ahead of its time.
Floy Joy: Into the Hot
Bit of an oddity this one, but well worth seeking out. Back in the early eighties, Sheffield produced its own slice of smooth jazz/funk and soul, courtesy of brothers Mike and Shaun Ward. This album, produced in Detroit by Was (not Was), contained some sublime moments and a couple of minor hit singles. Mike is still active on the Sheffield music scene, often collaborating with those crazy I Monster guys.